Some rival has stolen my true love away,
So I in Old England no longer can stay;
I will swim the wide ocean all round by fair Brest, (or: all round my fair breast,)
To find out my true love whom I love the best.
When I have found out my true love and delight,
I'll welcome her kindly by day or by night;
For the bells shall be a-ringing, and the drums make a noise,
To welcome my true love with ten thousand joys.
Here's a health to all overs that are loyal and just;
Here's confusion to the rival that lives in distrust!
But it's I'll be as constant as a true turtle dove,
For I never will, at no time, prove false to my love.
abc | midi | pdf
Source: Broadwood, L, 1908, English Traditional Songs and Carols, London, Boosey
Sung by Mr. Lough, Dunsford, 1898
Lucy Broadwood wrote:
In the Roxburghe Collection (Ballad Society, Vol. vi., pp. 67 and 69), there is a broadside, circa 1656, " Love's Fierce Desire, etc. : A true and brief Description of two resolved Lovers, etc." "To an excellent new Tune (its own) or, Fair Angel of England." This beginsOnly the first verse is transcribed here.
" Now the Tyrant hath stolen my dearest away:" The suitor addresses the lady in seven stanzas, and she replies in eight verses, the second, third, and sixth of which have much similarity to the words of "Some Rival, etc." But the whole ballad is distinct, and artificial in character, and would seem to be based upon some older song. " I'll Swim through the Ocean upon my bare breast" is in the broadside, and appears to be correct. The Sussex singer's " my fair breast" suggested a possible corruption from " by fair Brest."
In Playford's Musical Companion (1667) there is a different four-verse song, "Though the Tyrant hath ravished my dearest away." It has only the first line in common with the above ballads, but its tune (set for four voices), though a very poor one, has a distinct likeness to the Sussex traditional air. Other Sussex versions begin, " A merry King (of Old England) has stolen" and "The Americans have stolen:" The ballad beginning "Fair Angel of England" see (beginning of this note) refers to the wooing of a "fair maid of London" by King Edward IV., who appears as an imperious and dangerously determined lover. Possibly he is the " Tyrant," "Merry King," and "Rival" referred to. A number of 17th century ballads are directed to be sung to the tune, " The Tyrant hath stolen:" For further versions and notes see Journal of the Folk Song Society, Vol. i., No. 4., pp. 205, 208, and Vol. iii., No. 12
used here as improvements. The whole song is of such interest that it is here given full length, from the phonograph-record taken by Dr. R. Vaughan Williams, which he has kindly allowed me to transcribe.
It will be observed that the cadence in verse 1 of the harmonised version, which was most persistently used in 1893, was not sung at all in 1907, unless perhaps at the end of the song, where the record is indistinct but suggests the possibility of its use. In 1893 the cadence used in verses 1 and 2 of the phonographed version was sung occasionally, and the cadence used most often in 1907 occurred so very seldom in 1893 as to seem an accidental "sport" at that time. Some of the variants in the latest version suggest that the old voice unconsciously, but artistically, had adapted the intervals to its powers. It is interesting to note that in the last verse the flat seventh was raised, and sung an almost pure C sharp, as if the tired singer found it less of an effort to sing a semitone than a whole tone at that point.
Roud: 587 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six